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Why Same-Sex Relationships Matter in “Mass Effect”

Why Same-Sex Relationships Matter in “Mass Effect”  (photo)

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BioWare’s “Mass Effect” titles offer a stunning amount of scale and ambition in the experiences they offer to gamers. The two installments in the sci-fi action RPG series have been space opera of the highest order, and unique in the amount of personal investment it generates in the people who play. That investment starts with the Commander Shepard you make as your avatar. Shepard can be male or female and loyalist camps have sprung up around the actors-Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale, respectively-who give voice to the male and female versions of the character, called BroShep or FemShep by fans.

The investment continues in the agonizing storyline choices you make. Are you a hard-ass, take-no-prisoners Renegade, who lets enemies die even if you could save them? Do you let entire species become extinct? Or do you play as an altruistic Paragon, turning to diplomacy before force and pursuing justice instead of vengeance? The decisions you make ripple outward in the fictional universe, influencing how tertiary characters talk to you and interact with you.

But, the relationships that are arguably the most important of all in “Mass Effect” haven’t shown the kind of depth and openness that the rest of the game has. Romance options in the first two games have skewed heavily to the heteronormative. Shepard could only woo members of the opposite sex in “Mass Effect” and “Mass Effect 2,” with an exception made if you played a female Shepard and wanted to get with another woman. This situation came under fire for being exclusionary, and always seemed a dunderheaded move to avoid controversy.

Not that it’s worked, though. “Mass Effect”‘s handling of sex was the subject of an infamous, fear-mongering Fox News report shortly after the first “ME” game came out.

But the question’s always been why? Why no guy-on-guy? I don’t think prurience or titillation’s ever been the issue, as the groping displayed in “Mass Effect” romances never gets hotter than a PG-13 level. No, the why has always been a more philosophical question. In a wide-open universe where all kinds of races comingle, why isn’t it a romantic option for players to have their avatars involved in whatever relationships they wanted?

Well, we may never know the answer but we do know that that’s changing. Two days ago, Casey Hudson, Executive Producer of the “Mass Effect” series tweeted the following:

Happy to confirm #ME3 supports wider options for love interests incl. same-sex for m&f chars, reactive to how you interact w/them in-game.

Now, character relationships in the “Mass Effect” games carry over so, if players do want to change their orientation of the romantic relationships, there ‘s going to be narrative dissonance between chapters. If your Shepard goes from girls to guys from “ME2” to “ME3,” the writers at BioWare might be hard-pressed to explain how or why Shepard switches teams. One thinks that they’ll likely be up to the task. Most importantly, your Shepard will be able to face the threat of the galaxy-destroying Reapers with the love of someone you feel he deserves. There’s no better reason to save the universe than that.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.